The envelope

[…] and it so happened, that day and at that hour there was not a single person on the street where Anna lived. She was walking fast towards her place, with a certain inner shiver fulgurating through her veins, for which she blamed courageously the late autumn wind – after all, it kept blowing and blowing, having stripped of even the last leaf each and every branch from the trees in that area of London. A grey cat, hiding itself in the corner of a stair, watched with narrowed pupils as the young woman tightened her coat around her. “There, I’m almost home…” said Anna to herself, groping inside her bag for the key. While doing that, she noticed a small beige envelope, which she didn’t recall putting in-there. She slowed down, took it out and looked at it, slightly frowning: “How did this get inside my bag?!” After a few seconds, defeated by the cold wind cutting deep in her flesh through the thin coat, she resumed her movement towards the door, with unsure steps. She entered the house and locked the door, as usual, left her coat and bag on a chair and went into the kitchen. She placed the envelope on the table and put the kettle on fire, and then she sat down, staring at that beige piece of paper with only two words on it – “For Anna”. For some reason she had the awkward impression that she was supposed to know the content of it, but she had no idea why she felt that. The small and neat handwriting on it seemed not unknown to her, but she couldn’t remember where she had seen it previously. She wasn’t expecting any message from anybody at all, and even if she had, she would have received either an e-mail or an SMS on her mobile phone. And yet the lowness of the level of surprise that she felt told her that there was something about this envelope that wasn’t so unexpected. She picked it up slowly, gazing at it with a lost look in her eyes, and almost as in trance she brought it closer to her nose, inhaling the paper’s scent. A delicate fragrance of jasmine filled her nostrils and something about it startled her …

– …Anna!
She grabbed the perfume from the toilet table and for a second she caressed the contour of the tiny crystal bottle with her forefinger. She knew it had probably cost him a fortune, especially since the economic situation was utterly precarious because of the war, but he had always been that way, spoiling her. That perfume was just one of his many proofs of affection, and she wasn’t going to leave it behind.
– Anna! Are you coming dear? We must hurry!
– Right away, Alec!
With the perfume in one hand and a bag in the other, she rushed out of the small room. They were supposed to cross the entire city of Warsaw in order to reach their friend’s place and because of the entire war bombing the city looked like a huge pile of rubble, making it a nightmare to drive through it. New raids were expected soon and Poland had ceased to be a safe place long ago, so when Andrzej had offered to take them out of the country, they had accepted without hesitation.
Outside, Alec was desperately trying to start the car in order to leave, but for some reason the engine was stubbornly refusing to cooperate, so Anna wanted to take the time and shove the small bottle of perfume in the bag. With her eyes fixed on the apparently blocked zipper, she didn’t notice the hissing glint until it was too late. One fraction of a second later she felt a racking pain within her abdomen and she dropped both the bag and the perfume, watching almost in slow-motion as the tiny vial broke into shards against the street’s asphalt.
Alerted by the sudden sound, Alec turned towards her and when he saw the cadaverous pallor on his wife’s face he realized with horror what had happened. Anna fell, barely giving Alec the time to grab her shoulders and head in his arms. Feeling her life going away fast, she looked at him, trying to sketch a smile but not hearing him anymore. The moon behind him looked like a wall eye through the veil of perfume that, now wasted on the street, was spreading in the air all around them…

…tired of watching the sky through the window, Anne returned to bed, next to her husband. She was always sleepless in the nights with full moon, like this one, and not even Alexandre’s warm embrace could help her. The next day they were supposed to go to a local fair in a nearby village, and she knew that she was going to be awfully tired and not in the mood for walking such a long distance, but she had promised him that she’d go. Sighing, she placed her head on her husband’s arm and her own arm on his chest, touching involuntarily the scars he had gotten in the last crusade – ‘God bless King Louis for stopping those and bringing him home…’ thought Anne. She looked at his face while he was asleep, smiling at the way he pouted in his dream, like a child. ‘I wonder if our son will pout the same way his father does…’ she thought, touching her slightly swollen belly, praying for a healthy baby. Then she closed her eyes and breathed deeply, inhaling the jasmine scent of the bed sheets. For some unknown reason, ever since he had returned from the battle, those sheets had started to smell like flowers. ‘It must be a good sign…’ was her last thought, before finally getting to fall asleep…

…the perfume of the bush behind her back veiled her while she held close to her heart his last letter. She looked towards the thin line of mountains beyond which the sun was going to set at some point. One of the things that she loved about her uncle’s villa was the air of the twilight reigning over the entire place, slightly misty and always lending people and things a golden aura, sweet and deeply fragrant with jasmine because of the numerous bushes around. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the remains of the day, leaning against the white marble columns of the house. She had been grateful when, after her failed nuptiae in Rome, her uncle, Aurelius, had taken her away from the entire thing and had sheltered her in his country home. Here, Ana had had the chance to recompose herself, after the premature death of the one who was supposed to become her husband. Tears filled her eyes while she recalled the promise of Alexis in the last letter he had sent her – deployed in some obscure war, he’d been wounded, and feeling his life being drained from the body, he had used his fading strength to write her a few words on the piece of parchment that she was now holding – ‘I’ll always be with you, if not in this life then in the next…’. Suddenly, somewhere in the valley, not far from her, she heard somebody whistling…

…The meek whistle of the kettle on fire made Anna blink, bringing her back into the present. She put the unopened envelope back on the table, took the pot and poured herself a cup of tea, sat down and waited. And when a gentle knock at the front door was heard, she smiled radiantly and went to open without delay. She knew who it was. […]

© Liliana Negoi

2 Responses to “The envelope”
  1. granbee says:

    A dream come true, with jasmine and tea!

  2. your imagery was great.. enjoyed it!

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